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December 14, 2017
Care for the Elderly at Christmas
We all know Christmas can be a lonely time for the elderly especially if they have reduced mobility and find it difficult to leave their home. Many will have lost spouses or close relatives and their children may live away from home.
People often ask for gift suggestions for elderly relatives at Christmas time. The answer is not another pair of socks, scented candles or fragrant soaps because truly the most precious gift we can give an elderly person is our time. A short amount of time spent with someone can really make their day and can be a rewarding experience too.
Helping with preparation for Christmas and giving companionship will make Christmas that little bit easier and more enjoyable for the elderly. Time spent together can be a beneficial experience for all.
Here are a few ideas.
Send a card to an elderly relative or person you know. Even though we do it less and less these days, we all enjoy receiving a card in the post. It is a more personal letter if you can include some up to date family photos. Even better enlist a teenager to help compile a photo book or a personalised calendar with family birthdays highlighted. After the festivities are over these items will often be proudly displayed and shown to visitors throughout the year.
Can you help with Christmas card writing especially for someone who has a shaky hand or poor sight? Assist with addressing the envelopes and then post the cards.
Many elderly people struggle with this and so don’t bother doing anything. A home will always be more festive and cheery with decorations up and a Christmas tree on display.
If you are putting up a Christmas tree do check the Christmas tree lights first to ensure they have an up to date safety rating. Make sure the on / off function switch is easily accessible. Trees must be switched off at night time and when the house is empty.
The other important thing here is to remember not just to help putting up the decorations but also be there to assist with taking them down. It can be a pleasant few hours spent together.
Offer to help with present and food shopping either by doing it for them or accompanying them to help choose gifts and carry things home. Alternatively do some online shopping together helping them to use the internet.
Wrapping presents too can be a fiddly task for older fingers so assistance will always be welcomed.
Have you time to bring someone to a Christmas event? There are many events on at this time of year: the carol service in the church, the Christmas lunch in the community centre, the local Christmas market and stalls. Are your children involved in the school play? Grandparents are often welcome to attend.
An outing for an hour can make a big difference. A drive to look at the Christmas lights, a chat over a cup of tea in the local coffee shop are all simple pleasures that can mean a lot.
Some things to remember when heading out:
Never rush an elderly person. Slow down to their pace and be patient! Plan where to park and how you will access your destination. If you take an elderly person out, always accompany them back into their house to ensure they are safe. Roads and driveways can be treacherous at this time of year.
Most elderly people really do enjoy children’s company. Get them involved on visits with you and plan some things to do. Playing a game, story telling, card games, even watching a tv programme can all be fun activities. What about getting a large jigsaw and doing it together over the Christmas holidays? A little pre-planning can make visiting fun and easier for everyone.
As this is the time of year when we are likely to have more exposure to our elderly relatives and neighbours take some time to observe. Small changes can often be easy to address and ensure their safety. To use the old cliché: prevention is better than cure. Some things to look out for:
Is it time to install a grip or hand rail at the hall door?
Are there dead leaves in the drive?
Who takes the bins out?
Do smoke alarms need to be checked?
Do light bulbs need to be changed?
Are there any potential tripping hazards in the house?
Is the house warm enough?
Are they using an open fire and if so is it safe?
Being around more and in close proximity means we may notice if a person is becoming more forgetful or if the house is becoming a little untidy. Elderly people may be desperate to retain their independence and hence will be fiercely protective of it. However the early stage introduction of some help can make an enormous difference later on. An elderly person can often be managing generally well but may just need some help with household chores and so be willing to accept such change.
Decide if it is appropriate to make such suggestions.
‘Tis the season to be jolly’ – so let us spread goodwill and kindness. Remember we will grow old too!